A World Health Organization (WHO) report published in 2002 entitled “Active Ageing: a Policy Framework” summarizes the individual and collective measures to be implemented to facilitate healthy ageing or “active ageing” according to the WHO. These measures encourage the strengthening of actions to promote health-promoting behaviours, prevent chronic diseases and ensure equitable access to the health system. They insist on the necessary reorganisation of long-term care.
The rationale of the report
The proportion of the world’s population over 60 is growing faster than other age groups. Between 1970 and 2025, their number is expected to reach 694 million, an increase of 223 per cent. By 2025, nearly 1.2 billion people will be over 60. By 2050, more than 2 billion. Meeting the specific needs of this public is becoming a health, social and economic necessity. The WHO therefore proposes the concept of active ageing, “the process of optimizing opportunities for good health, participation and security in order to increase the quality of life in old age”. Older people should be able to use their physical, mental and social potential to participate in society according to their needs and wishes, while receiving appropriate protection, security and care. Being “active” is therefore not limited to having a job or engaging in physical activity. It also includes social, spiritual, cultural and civic activities in the broadest sense. The aim is to maximise healthy life expectancy (or its synonym, disability-free life expectancy) on an individual and collective scale.
The question posed
What can be done to promote active aging?
The report is based on the work of experts. It inventories the individual and collective strategies to be implemented to contribute to active ageing. This includes health promotion, disease prevention and equitable and sustainable access to care. The authors aim to identify proven measures to reduce the number of premature deaths, limit the suffering associated with the consequences of chronic disease, improve quality of life, facilitate active participation in family, social, cultural, economic and political life, and optimize the management of care and treatment.
An entire chapter is devoted to the prevention of chronic diseases, which will constitute a major economic and social burden for states and citizens in the coming years. These diseases are mainly cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, osteo-muscular diseases (e.g. arthritis), mental disorders, dementia and visual impairment. They are due to risk behaviours and not to hereditary factors (i.e. genetic in origin and present at birth). They are very costly and account for the largest share of health care spending for people over 60 years of age.
Successful aging should be able to avoid or limit the impact of a chronic disease. The global changes in the health and social consequences associated with ageing make the fight against chronic diseases a priority for the third millennium. It calls for a shift from a repair model to a model of coordinated, sustainable and comprehensive care. This evolution requires a reorientation of the health system currently structured to manage acute-phase diseases. The latter model is inadequate to meet the health needs of aging populations.
WHO’s “Active ageing” approach sets the course for nations on health, social participation and security to address ageing populations. These actions must be carried out jointly by health, prevention, labour and social professionals if effective results are to be achieved.